“Entranced by the flight of a raven, I watch its shadow move effortlessly against golden, shimmering granite. I long to be that free, flying above the cluttered world of normalcy, where so many are half alive.” Dean Potter
First, an introductory side note—it has become clear that when I am highly stressed, it is wild things that soothe me. Getting lost looking out at the endless ocean, studying African elephants and recently…massive mountains and the people who climb them. These last months at Esper have been intense. In no small part because I loaded on every class they offered beyond the regular full-time load. At the same time. In an effort to cope, somewhere along the way I started following a couple of people on Instagram who are extreme athletes–climbing Mt Everest and other daunting peaks. Although I have no (conscious) desIre to go out and do these things, for some reason, reading posts about their adventures provided a momentary soothing distraction from any anxiety I was having around the school work. I would get totally absorbed reading about how they push their bodies and souls to the absolute limit. All of a sudden working on my scenes, finding the monologues, getting the lines, understanding the characters, wondering what the heck is going to happen when I finish school…didn’t seem so overwhelming. I mean…at least I’m not crossing Everest’s Khumbu Icefall, right?
This leads me to Dean Potter. I first came upon him on the day he died–Saturday May 16. He was 43 and famous in the rock climbing world. Described as a mountain sports pioneer. A Yosemite icon. He was killed doing what he loved–flying. More specifically, BASE jumping in Yosemite National Park (BASE jumping is wingsuit flying off a cliff).
I leapt from profile to profile watching as the word spread through the climbing community. It was kind of surreal, actually. I felt unexpectedly privy to something intimate–the realization by fellow climbers of what had happened and the collective mourning. Risk-taker, free spirit, innovator, and mentor were some of the words used to describe him. #FlyFree–his oft-used Instagram hashtag was now his tribute.
I felt strongly attached to this person for reasons that weren’t initially clear. I started reading articles about him, watching interviews, learning more about him and his life as an artist/athlete/person. He felt familiar. A kindred spirit in some strange way.
“I find when I risk my life or there’s a lot on the line, that I have heightened concentration, heightened emotions, heightened senses and that’s the reason I’m doing all these things.” Dean Potter
He was so attuned to his environment in those moments that he could feel what he couldn’t see. But it can be hard to handle. You’re so alive.“ Dean Fidelman
"The thing about Dean that was refreshing is how unabashedly himself he was. Even when it pissed people off or flew in the face of his sponsors, Dean was going to do what he was going to do.” Cedar Wright
Then I realized what it was. Especially all of us about to graduate from Esper–we are leaping. And want to fly. To keep experiencing that feeling when you are so attuned, so connected, so alive. We want to innovate, create, push the boundaries, break the rules, be true to ourselves without apology, live fully without compromise.
I like to think that Dean would look at what I’m doing and say “No #*@&ing way.” But maybe that is exactly where we could be the same. I’m just jumping off my own cliffs.
Maybe my Esper education is my wingsuit. The stage is my Yosemite.
And now #FlyFree will be my mantra. Before I go into an audition, walk on a stage, stand before a camera.
Thank you, Dean Potter. For living so boldly. For the inspiration.